Former UM safety Colt Anderson a hit for Eagles

2011-01-27T12:30:00Z Former UM safety Colt Anderson a hit for EaglesBy BILL FOLEY Montana Standard missoulian.com
January 27, 2011 12:30 pm  • 

His fans in Montana probably figure Colt Anderson cemented a spot on the Philadelphia Eagles roster for years to come.

Why not? In eight regular-season games with the Eagles, Anderson earned two game balls and was voted a special teams captain for the playoffs.

Despite playing just half the season, the former Butte High Bulldog and Montana Grizzly tied for third with 12 special teams tackles.

He drew much praise from teammates, coaches and fans.

The All-American at the University of Montana is under contract with Philadelphia for two more seasons.

Anderson, though, sees a spot on the 2011 Eagles roster as anything but a gimme.

"You can never think that way in this league," Anderson says. "There's guys that do, and they're cut the next day. You always have to think your job is on the line."

Anderson is back in the Mining City after the Eagles playoff loss to the Packers on Jan. 9.

He drove by himself from Philadelphia - with several stops to visit friends along the way.

One of those stops was Minneapolis, where he lived much of the previous year and a half.

After spending the 2009 season and the first half of 2010 on the practice squad with the Minnesota Vikings, Anderson signed with the Eagles on Nov. 10.

It didn't take Anderson long to make an impression in the "City of Brotherly Love."

Five nights after signing with the Eagles, Anderson stood out on special teams in a 59-28 win at Washington.

Anderson was awarded a game ball. It was an honor that repeated itself three weeks later in a 34-24 home win over the Houston Texans.

"It was pretty neat. Those guys took me right in," Anderson says of his teammates on the Eagles. "The first day they were kind of skeptical if I could play. Then I went out and practiced for the first time and they took me in. They were all talking me up."

His teammates' approval was evident in the team vote that made him a captain -along with quarterback Michael Vick, receiver DeSean Jackson, defensive backs Asante Samuel and Quintin Mikel and kicker David Akers - for the playoffs.

"I was just honored," Anderson says. "To be voted on by the team was pretty neat. It's pretty surreal. It hasn't sunk in yet. That will be a memory that sticks out."

Anderson played special teams in all nine games with the Eagles.

Down the stretch, he started seeing time at safety.

He played in short-yardage situations. In the win over the Giants, Anderson saw extensive time in the "quarterback" defense.

"We tried to give Eli a different look," he said of Giants quarterback Eli Manning.

Of course, that game will be long remembered for another reason.

The Eagles scored 28 fourth-quarter points to erase what was a 31-10 deficit in a 38-31 win.

Jackson returned a punt 72 yards as time ran out to give the Eagles the victory. The play was dubbed the new "Miracle at the Meadowlands."

Anderson was on the field for that final play.

"I was running behind him, and I was looking for the flag," he says. "It was too good to be true."

Anderson jokes that he didn't do anything to help Jackson score.

"I told everybody, ‘I didn't block one person on that play,' " he says. "I chipped their gunner, then I saw DeSean drop the ball. He hesitated and then he was past me. That's one of the greatest plays in NFL history."

The first "Miracle at the Meadowlands" also involved the Eagles and Giants. That was when Herman Edwards returned a fumble 26 yards for a touchdown on the final play to give the Eagles a 17-12 win in 1978.

****

The Eagles playoff game with the Packers didn't see any miracles, and Anderson didn't see time at safety. He did, though, make two big plays on the Eagles punt team.

On Philadelphia's first kick, Anderson steered a blocker from the Packers into a live ball, resulting in the Eagles recovering with good field position.

Butte fans speculated that Anderson, who is the "gunner" on punts, knew what he was doing on that play. They were right.

"I was trying all year to get it," Anderson says. "The coaches just say, ‘If the guy is going to be dumb enough to keep blocking, then run him into the ball.' Coach Bobby Hauck always talked about that."

The second big play came later when Anderson dove to down a punt on the Packers' 2-yard line.

"That play was funny. I didn't think it was going to count," Anderson says. "Their guy blocked me into the end zone. I didn't know if I got out of the end zone in time."

The Packers won 21-16 after Tramon Williams picked off a Vick pass in the end zone in the final minute.

"It's just crazy that the season can come to an end all of a sudden," Anderson says. "We had hope up until that last interception. Then it was all over."

Local fans got plenty of time to see No. 30 from the Eagles, who played five primetime games. Another game - at Chicago - was "flexed" by FOX to be its featured afternoon game.

"It's Michael Vick," Anderson explains.

Anderson, a player known for his flowing locks, looked a lot like he did when wearing No. 24 at Butte High, No. 19 with the Grizzlies and No. 49 in preseason games for the Vikings.

He looked as impressive to his special teams coach, Bobby April, as he did to fans in Montana.

April was quoted talking about Anderson in a story on the Eagles website.

"Tons of heart, tough kid and someone who goes down the field and gets it done," the coach says. "I don't care about any of that other stuff. He gets to the football. That is the name of the game.

"He's a football player," April says. "You measure a football player by the plays he makes, and Colt has made plenty of them here."

****

Anderson, a three-sport athlete at Butte High, made those plays in high school and college, too.

He walked on at the University of Montana after staring on a Butte High team that went 0-9 in 2003.

It didn't take Anderson long to become a scholarship player.

Anderson started 40 games at strong safety for the Grizzlies. He was all-conference three straight years and earned All-American status.

Anderson was a two-time winner of Montana's Steve Carlson Award, given to the Grizzlies' MVP, as voted on by his teammates. His 313 career tackles rank fifth in school history.

Anderson never spent a week on the Vikings' 53-man roster, though he practiced with the team every day.

"I treated every practice like it was a game," he says. "I had to; it was my job."

The Butte product turned some heads with a solid preseason.

One of those heads was April's.

"They had their eye on me the whole season. They were waiting for something to happen," Anderson says. "All I wanted was an opportunity to play and they gave me one."

April was even more impressed with Anderson - on and off the field - after he joined the Eagles.

"In my mind, he's got the greatest power any player could have. He's grateful," April says. "He's got the power of gratitude. I think that's true for any person, not just a player. He takes advantage of every single thing that goes on. I think that sets him apart, really, from his skill. He has a long way to go to be defined as the best player anywhere, but he's certainly working his way (there)."

The shot with Philadelphia came when the Eagles suffered an injury in the secondary.

The Eagles call barely beat one from the Dallas Cowboys.

"I'm heading to the airport (on the way to Philadelphia) and my agent called and said, ‘You're never going to guess who called. The Cowboys want to sign you,'" Anderson says. "It was cool to know other teams out there wanted you."

Anderson decided to go to Philadelphia because his path to game action was faster.

He says he made the right choice.

"I feel like I fit in better with the scheme in Philly," Anderson says. "The scheme was the same (as in Minnesota), but the play calling was different. We were more blitz-oriented. The safeties are more involved in the run. I like playing in the box and being physical with the big boys."

****

Six weeks after leaving the Vikings for the Eagles, Anderson got a chance to play his old team.

The Vikings won the game, which was played on NBC on a Tuesday night because of a weekend blizzard in Philadelphia.

Anderson says there was absolutely no animosity from either side.

"They were all excited for me," Anderson says. "All the coaches knew I could play. The just said it's just the way it works some times.

"It's crazy, you might not fit one team and on another you could be a starter."

Anderson said he wasn't intent on showing the Vikings what they missed.

"I was just glad to get an opportunity to play. It was nice to get on the field and on that 53-man roster," he says. "I don't worry about other teams. Everything happens for a reason, and you can't hold grudges against anybody."

In two short years in the NFL, Anderson has already seen his share of big-time free agents.

Brett Favre calls him by name. Well, sort of.

"He calls me Colt McCoy," Anderson says with a laugh.

McCoy just finished his rookie season at quarterback for the Cleveland Browns after a stellar career at the University of Texas.

The nickname Favre gave Anderson comes from the time when former Vikings head coach Brad Childress passed out and was dehydrated at practice.

He confused Anderson's name with McCoy as the team was wrapping things up.

"He said ‘Colt McCoy, break us down,' " Anderson says. "So now Favre calls me Colt McCoy."

Anderson quickly got to know another high-profile quarterback in Philadelphia.

Michael Vick was one of the first players to say hello.

"I came in and right away he introduced himself to me," Anderson says of Vick, who is a household name because of his play on the field and his prison sentence for involvement in a dog-fighting ring. "He's on a first name basis with all the guys. That says a lot about him."

****

While the nation will probably never know Anderson like it does Vick or Favre, Anderson is certainly a household name in Butte and Montana.

While having lunch and interviewing for this story at the Metals Sports Bar and Grill, Anderson was interrupted several times.

He didn't hesitate, signing autographs and making small talk with each fan. He even posed for a picture with a group of high school girls.

Anderson didn't mind. In fact, he embraced the attention.

So far, he's approved more than 4,500 "friends" on his Facebook page. It's not a fan page; it's his actual Facebook page.

"It's awesome coming back to see how much support you have," Anderson says. "I appreciate all the support I get. Butte is one of a kind. They follow their guys more than anyone else."

An autograph session is in the works for more Butte fans to meet Anderson, and for Anderson to meet more fans.

An announcement of the time and place for that event will come later.

Anderson says he'll split time between Butte and Missoula until he heads back to Philadelphia for offseason workouts in March.

Those plans could change, though, if the NFL owners lock out the players, as expected in March.

A lockout won't stop Anderson from working. He just won't be able to work at the Eagles training facility.

The former walk on is going to spend every minute possible working hard to ensure a spot on the roster in Philadelphia, a city known for underdog stories like Anderson's.

"You can never be content," Anderson says. "As soon as you are, you're out of the league."

 

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